Tax relief welcome

The 2014-15 New York state budget may have its share of controversial spending and programs, but it should give average taxpayers a degree of satisfaction.

Yes, it’s an election-year budget, some of the tax breaks are gimmicks and we will continue to live in a state that spends and taxes far too much, but the plan does offer some relief, and that’s good news for taxpayers.

The budget, adopted Monday, provides almost $5 billion in property tax relief – $1.5 billion over the next three years from tax rebates and $3.4 billion in the School Tax Relief program.

The new property tax rebate program will provide relief to taxpayers in school districts and municipalities that stay within the 2 percent property tax cap and submit plans to the state that result in local cost savings of at least 1 percent. As many as 2.8 million property taxpayers outside New York City will receive rebate checks in October as a result of the program, according to a state Senate news release. After this year, the relief will come in the form of a tax credit on taxpayers’ annual income tax returns.

The budget spends a record amount on the STAR program, including $905 million in relief through the Enhanced STAR program for senior citizen homeowners.

For businesses, the new budget includes tax cuts for manufacturers and reduces an energy-tax surcharge, which also will reduce residential utility bills by $100 million a year over the next three years. The budget includes a 20 percent property tax credit for manufacturers and an additional $501 million in new business tax reforms and simplifications, including reducing the business tax rate from 7.1 percent to 6.5 percent.

New York state, local governments and schools need to reduce spending nearly across the board and significantly lower income and property tax rates permanently, but for now, the taxpayers will get a little help from the new state budget.